Unconscious Attraction Patterns in Relationships
While we're often preoccupied with physical attractiveness, the depth of an intimate relationship is concerned with the degree of unconscious psychological connection. It's far easier to find someone we find physically attractive than someone with whom we feel a psychological connection. So what is it that makes us feel that special connection'?
One popular theory suggests that we'll be most attracted at an unconscious psychological level to a partner who has a number of both the positive and negative traits of our primary caretakers in childhood. Thus we unconsciously seek a mate with whom to recreate our childhood dramas in adult life. For example, if each partner exhibits certain traits of the other's parents, the couple are more likely to feel connected to one another. They're also likely to encounter particular relationship dynamics in which difficult emotional responses are triggered. It's often possible to identify the roots of these patterns in childhood development.
In childhood, we looked to our parents (or caretakers) to get our needs met. Similarly, in relationship, we look to our partner to meet our needs. Secondly, we're likely to feel most attracted to a partner we think of as possessing qualities that we cannot see in ourselves; hence the common belief that opposites attract.
So a partner to whom we feel attracted through an unconscious psychological connection is likely to offer us the best possible opportunity for personal growth through relationship. This will starkly highlight where work needs to be done. A common example is when one person discovers that their greatest need is something that their partner finds hardest to meet and vice versa!
1. If you've sensed a significant element of mutual attraction from your first meeting, you and your partner may be experiencing an unconscious psychological connection that could provide great potential for mutual growth in relationship.
2. Make a list of both the positive and negative characteristics of your parents/primary childhood caretakers. How many of these can you identify in your partner and which of these traits affect you the most? To what extent does your partner represent a parent/caretaker? Ask your partner to do the same exercise and compare notes.
3. You may discover that the traits of your partner you initially found attractive are also those that are most challenging to you in relationship. It's likely that your partner will feel the same way about you. When you find yourselves in times of conflict, try to recognise if you have recreated a childhood drama with your partner. If so, see if you can establish what you can both learn from this. Individual unmet needs are likely to be at the root of your difficulties.
4. If you take the view that an intimate relationship should be a vehicle for personal growth, then a partner with whom you feel a deep connection is likely to provide you with plenty of opportunities; provided that you have sufficient self-insight to recognise what is happening to you and where you and/or your partner need to grow.
5. Opposites may attract, but if you favour harmony over personal challenge, it could be that you will find more stability in relationship with a partner who is very similar to yourself in personality. However, your relationship may lack a certain spice!
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About Deborah Winterbourne
I am an experienced and professionally qualified psychotherapist registered with UKCP. My speciality is couples counselling and I run a business jointly with my partner, Simon Adamson, called 'Complete Couples'. We offer a confidential service providing you and your partner with a safe and empathic space to assist you in exploring the difficult issues within your relationship, whatever your age, r… Read more
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